The World Wide Web’s role as information provider has changed over the past decade. New forms of collective intelligence are emerging from the collaboration, collective efforts, and competition of many online individuals. “Recently, a rather broad new category of websites and networks, loosely referred to as social media, has emerged to challenge our notions of what media are, how they operate, and how they impact society” (Webster 2010, p.1).
Worldwide, two-thirds of Internet users access social networks or blogs. And time spent with member communities has increased sixty-three percent. All of these entities offer some measure of interactivity, “allowing users to click through, vote, sort, retrieve, recommend, post, buy, comment, or collaborate” (Webster 2010, p.3).
Technology’s capacity to initiate major cultural, social, educational, economic, political and commercial shifts have forced us to adapt to the many challenges that online technologies have presented, from which we have reaped the benefits (Mallan & Patterson 2008. Present and Active).
Convergence is the flow of content across multiple media platforms, the cooperation between multiple media industries, and the migratory behaviour of audiences. It represents a cultural shift as “consumers are encouraged to seek out new information and make connections among dispersed media content” (Jenkins 2006, p.3). The circulation of media content can be linked to the consumer’s active participation.
As Henry Jenkins said “convergence cultures represent the audience’s ever-increasing desire to participate in the production of media and not merely consume it” (Hutchinson 2013, The Cultural Impact). For instance, the emergence of Web 2.0 technologies has provided audiences with an opportunity to participate in the media consumption and production process.
Creating blogs, editing Wikipedia articles, sharing stories on Facebook, posting updates on Twitter and uploading videos to YouTube are all good examples, which allow audiences to communicate in new and innovative ways, decreasing the hold traditional media have over what content is distributed to the public (Hutchinson 2013, The Cultural Impact).
Dana Brunetti recently outlined in an interview with Randi Zuckerberg that “everyone has the ability to film and produce a video with their smart phone” (Penny 2014, Flip the media). It is so easy to create something new due to the simplicity of digital technologies and convergent media, which make creating new content a breeze.
Convergent media combines the roles of users and producers into what Axel Bruns calls produsers (Bird 2011, Are we all Produsers). Produsers contribute to the production of ideas in a collaborative, participatory environment, which is blurring the lines between users and producers of information and knowledge.
Bruns (2007) outlines users as those who utilise existing resources while producers are those who add new information. When you combine these roles you get a produser, someone who utilises both forms of participation (Blogs, Wikipedia, Second Life).
The result of a produser is produsage, a commons-based, peer-to-peer form of production. This refers to the “continuous building and extending of existing content in … a dense alternative media network” (Bruns 2007, Blogs, Wikipedia, Second Life), which is a shift away from corporate media and more towards community based, self curation and creation of online content. For instance, produsage can be seen in the collaborative development of open source software such as Linux, Open Office and Github. It is also evident in the “distributed multi-user spaces of the Wikipedia, or the user-led innovation and content production in multi-user online games” (Bruns 2007, Blogs, Wikipedia, Second Life).
Ninety percent of content in The Sims is produced by its users rather than the game publisher. Produsage can further be seen in collaborative online publishing such as independent blogs and websites, which distribute news and information from a more personal perspective as opposed to traditional journalism. For instance, The Domain, The AIM Network, Slashdot and OhmyNews contribute to the world-wide network of independent media and citizen journalism (Bruns 2007, Blogs, Wikipedia, Second Life).